Monday, September 7, 2015

A Place Under the Stairs

     Shouting from all sides of the wall. Charlie sits in his little red Camaro bed and holds his hands over his ears. He counts the holes in the ceiling tiles, like he always does. He makes pictures from the sponge painted shapes on his walls. Chuck does this whenever he feels stressed. Times when his mom and boyfriends are fighting. When the lights go out at first. When someone has hurt him at school. When his mother has had enough of his obsessing over things and strikes him. People seem to always strike him.

     One, two, three, four, five, six...He sits on the bed and waits for silence to win. Noise has never been anything but a nuisance. Charlie hates music and he hates the sound of people's voices, especially his father's. He remembers hearing his father speak only once. He knows he must have heard it more, but this once, his father told him that he should have been aborted. Chuck obsessed too much to not look that word up when he got old enough to do so. Now this voice makes him rock back and forth.

Journal entry July 5th 1992. 

I'm not good at this. I hate this. I am only writing this because the lady at school told me that I had to. Here are the events of today; written in order. I got up from bed and brushed my teeth. I got toothpaste on my clean shirt and that doesn't come out well, so I changed it. I locked the bathroom door so that my sister didn't barge in and ask me all of these questions. I went to the bus stop and Michael Salsbury pushed snow into my face, then pushed me into the snow bank. I tried to punch him, but I couldn't see because of the snow and missed. The bus stop laughed at me. I got to school and broke 5 pencil leads. Sometimes I break them because of nerves. I asked to sharpen the fifth and the teacher told me stay in my seat. She told me that having sharpened pencils is part of being responsible, and I will learn what that means and someday I will thank her for the lesson. I went home on the bus. I ate a frozen TV dinner on my Spiderman tray while watching "The Apple Dumpling Gang" on TV. I went to bed and that was the end of my day.

     Charlie sits under the basement stairs that he has made into a fort with blankets. He watches a small portable television that he got from a camper his mom once owned. He had figured out a way to extend cords from the cable box and run a line into the basement to his small TV. He isn't sure how many hours he had spent down there, but this is the place he goes at night when he can't sleep. Sometimes he pretends to sleep when his mom comes in crying to look at him. She will cry and touch his shoulder. Sometimes, she will say she is sorry. Other times, she will just lay next to him on his little sleeping bag and cry. She never stayed long. Charlie always woke up alone.

Journal Entry August 1st, 1992

I got detention for not writing in this stupid book every week. So here is my day, in chronological order. I got up in my fort under the stairs. The basement was cold, so I got an extra blanket from the laundry room and laid back down. I woke up again and my mom was slapping me in the face and pouring water on my face. I was late and had missed the bus. I slept too much. She would have to walk me to school if I was going. But I wasn't going. When I missed the bus it meant I was staying home. I watched the "Winnie the Pooh Show" on my little TV under the stairs. I took a couple of naps. I woke up during the "Pinwheel" show, then fell asleep again when "Picture Page" ended.  I heard my mom come home slamming things around upstairs. She called someone and she was yelling. I covered my ears and rocked myself to sleep. I woke up and ate a peanut butter sandwich for dinner. I did the homework my sister brought me from school. It was easy. I watched "Mr. Belvedere" and went to sleep.


Journal Entry October 25th, 2012

Here is my day from the first to last. I woke up before my alarm clock. I turned over and remembered that Amber was working tonight and I shouldn't expect her to be home until I was off to work. I tried to sleep, but I couldn't so I went to my secret fort under the stairs and fell asleep. I got up when I heard the front door. I came upstairs holding my work clothes so that she wouldn't know about my fort. I went to work. Today was a good day at work. I got my review and it went really well. Jim (My Boss) told me that I only needed to work on my "People skills." I got a pay raise that I couldn't wait to tell Amber about. I called her at lunch and she was so excited about it. I'm not stupid. I know she was pretending. But it feels good to be appreciated at work and at least encouraged at home...even if it isn't completely real. 

     Charlie sat down in front of the Christmas tree on his recliner. Amber sat in front of the tree by the fireplace. She asked him how his day went and he answered, "It was ok." She probed and probed because Amber like to ask questions to keep him talking. She loved it when he would speak. She knew he didn't know it, but when he spoke the honesty that came from his mouth was truly refreshing. Amber loved Charlie from the moment she had met him at their therapy appointment. Her mom had encouraged her to be an adult. Her dad didn't speak to her at all...never had. Amber was his little secret mistake. She knew that because he had told her that. His voice was one that was revolting to her.

    When she met Charlie, she just couldn't stop looking at him. He was so handsome to her. She wanted to speak to him, but she was a proper lady. She waited.

     This one day, he opened the door for her as they were both leaving. She looked at him and said "Thank you my darling." Chuck didn't know what to make of that. He liked it; at least he thought he did. So Charlie replied, "I'd love to eat a cheeseburger...maybe you could come too." It was a date.

     They married without their parent's approval. Charlie's mom left just after he graduated high school and got an apartment with another "very special" roommate. She was shouted at and scolded. Her parents reluctantly came to the wedding and he dad placed her hand into his and smiled at her, even though she knew he didn't mean it.

Journal Entry December 15th, 2025

I did it! I got a promotion! I am the assistant supervisor to the quality department. I am so happy. I just want to tell Amber. I just want to tell Amber. I just want to tell Amber. I just want to tell Amber...Amber is gone though. Amber isn't at home or going to listen.  I forgot for a few minutes that Amber has died. I was sad, so I went to the Dairy Queen and got a cone. I walked for a while. It made me sad to think about her. I've come a long way since I started writing this journal as a kid. I've tried really hard to be more "social" and I think I'm better with people. It's a more difficult task without her here. She used to help me to not say the wrong things. She used to help me to understand why I feel so awkward. I got up and made eggs, fresh from our chickens out front. I stayed home today and worked from home. I looked at her picture every few minutes to remind me that she existed. I stopped working and ate dinner....a TV dinner that Amber would have screamed at me for eating. I went to bed under the stairs and fell asleep remembering that I am happy and got what I have aways wanted.




Thanks for reading...Z